The Canadian Armed Forces has ordered its members to return rucksacks and sleeping bag kits so they can be redistributed because of a “shortfall of equipment,” CTV News has learned.

A Canadian Forces General Order, or CANFORGEN, was sent to all armed forces members on May 28 commanding them to return the gear so the military can “redistribute material where it is needed most.” The order will stand, the CANFORGEN read, “until there is no longer a shortfall of equipment.” Members who are currently deployed, operational units and those who could be deployed on short notice, such as the Joint Task Force 2 special forces unit, were allowed to keep their equipment.

The order encompasses two types of rucksacks, including one that was first issued in 1982, as well as six-piece sleeping bag systems. Even sleeping bag liners have been recalled.

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) spokesperson Lt.-Col. Andre E. Salloum told CTV News that the redistribution of rucksacks and sleeping bags is necessary “because of successful recruiting initiatives” and because “(t)here are numerous personnel in the CAF that have, over the years, moved into positions that no longer need this type of equipment or deploy as often.”

“This is not seen as a shortage -- but rather an internal re-distribution within the CAF,” Salloum explained in a written statement. “The CANFORGEN is intended to get this equipment into the hands of those that need it the most.”

Several CAF units have been exempted from the order, however, including all special forces personnel -- though if they are not actively using the recalled gear, the CAF is still urging them to return it.

Although the CAF is denying that the order is related to equipment shortages, on May 30, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan revealed that the federal government spent $2.3 billion less than planned on new military gear in 2017.

Speaking to CTV News on Tuesday, Conservative MP and defence critic James Bezan slammed the Liberal government of failing “to provide the forces with enough kit.”

“This to me is ridiculous,” Bezan said. “If the Liberals can’t get sleeping bags right, how are we (going to) expect them to deliver fighter jets and new ships for our navy?”

Dave Perry, a senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, was somewhat more understanding.

“They’re going to great lengths to make sure that they’re using literally every last option other than spending taxpayer dollars,” Perry said of the military in an interview with CTV News.

Soldiers with desk jobs, he added, are “probably not using that sleeping bag very often.”

“A lot of the times it’s faster to do these kinds of internal reorganizations rather than do what you or I would do, which is just go buy one new if you needed a sleeping bag… especially if the ones that you have are from the eighties,” Perry said. “But that’s the way government works a lot of the time: you have to get permission from everybody under the sun to actually buy something even if it’s relatively inexpensive.”

With files from CTV National News parliamentary correspondent Mercedes Stephenson